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article imageOp-Ed: How to fix academic fraud in the NCAA

By Calvin Wolf     Jan 23, 2015 in Politics
The NCAA academic scandal is continuing to gain ground in the news as a class-action lawsuit is filed in North Carolina. According to the plaintiffs, UNC and the NCAA failed to provide them with the education it promised. Want to fix the NCAA? Here's how.
As a high school teacher, I often marvel at America's ambivalence toward academic achievement. On the one hand, we praise the broad concept of "education" to the sky, insisting that there is nothing like it. We funnel money to it, revere it in Hollywood, and encourage our students to receive as much as they can. On the other hand, we mock those who excel academically as nerds, dweebs, and other socially-inept sad sacks. We denigrate the importance of high grades and often criticize grades and test scores as the result of "gaming the system."
We love education, but we hate education.
But we do love our college sports, almost unconditionally. For decades, it's been a big business, with sports revenue funding stadiums, athletic programs, and building cult statuses around many schools and teams. Virtually every child, teenager, and adult in America has at least one shirt, sweatshirt, or hoodie dedicated to the _______ team or athletic dept. of a popular Division I university. Often, people say they prefer college sports to professional sports.
Will college sports retain its wholesome image? Perhaps not, according to CNN. A class-action lawsuit has been filed in North Carolina against the University of North Carolina and the NCAA. Two former UNC student-athletes are alleging that they were funneled into "paper classes" and given inflated grades to keep them eligible for play...but denying them a quality education. A whistleblower has insisted that the use of "paper classes" is incredibly widespread and that knowledge of it extends quite far.
None of this should be surprising. To keep our statistics rosy and our favorite athletes in play, we have long turned a blind eye to grade inflation and academic dishonesty. In high schools, teachers are tacitly (or overtly) encouraged to raise athletes' failing grades to Cs in order to keep them eligible. Teachers are encouraged to raise failing grades to Cs to keep the school's failure rate low. In college, these practices will intensify as college becomes more like high school. When policymakers can dictate failure rates and desirable scores from the top, "tweaking" will go on down below to make sure the goals get met.
Want to fix this NCAA academic dishonesty problem? Ban the use of "special admissions" for high school athletes. If you want to play on a college team, you need to get admitted to the college independently of your athletic prowess. In fact, athletics should be removed from the college admissions rubric except as a basic extracurricular activity. The rubric should be changed so that being on a high school sports team receives no more weight than being in the band, on the debate team, or on the student council.
You want to play sports? That's fine. You want a full-ride scholarship? That's fine. But you must get admitted to the school on your own academic merits.
Only when college sports are populated by young men and women who are academically prepared for college will we be able to root out academic dishonesty and rampant grade inflation.
And before anyone has an aneurysm, keep in mind that countless NCAA Division I student-athletes are already more than capable of excelling in the classroom. Changing the admissions standards to insist on academic ability would in no way harm the competitiveness of college sports. There are plenty who can excel in the classroom and on the gridiron.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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